Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Enough with the Sports Victimhood Already

Had a conversation with Girlfriendoseyo about bad sportsmanship on the third last day of the Olympics: she mentioned how the Russian team officials were so disappointed at their poor showing these Olympics that team officials and government members left before the games were done, and even the president is calling for heads to roll. Figure saking silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko bitched about not winning gold rather than giving credit to Evan Lysacek. I came back with my memory of the 2002 winter games, when team Russia was so dissatisfied with their bronze medal finish in hockey that they didn't even show up for the medal ceremony. No class.

Then I mentioned the death threats against Jim Hewish, the referee who disqualified the Korean skater and gave Apolo Ohno the gold in 2002, and this year called back the Korean women's team speed skating gold medal for crowding a Chinese skater. (It's interesting that the hate this time is for the referee instead of for the Chinese skaters... but something I've noticed recently is that Korea will get all noisy and outraged in hate for America or Japan, but Korea doesn't mess with China. When the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay ended with the embarrassment of Seoul being unable to control the crowd of Chinese boosters, who violently quelled any protests around city hall, and darn near mauled a fella in the Soul Plaza Hotel lobby, the Chinese students arrested weren't even deported, and the whole thing disappeared from the media in two days, unlike the trumped up story against US Beef, which was a pure fiction, but sparked street protests for months, to say nothing of all of 2002 except the World Cup.)

So Jim Hewish had to be put under police protection in Vancouver. Brian cited a comment at Marmot, that these netizen outbursts can, and WILL undermine Korean attempts to host huge events like Olympics and World Cups - is the IOC really going to hold a Winter Games in a country where they might be unable to guarantee the safety of referees or players, if a call or a close game goes against Korea? Do they want to risk 200, or 1000 of THOSE kinds of people waiting outside the venue every time the hated ref of the day comes and goes?

In Korea's defense, Girlfriendoseyo said that she read that Jim Hewish had a history of other calls against Korea, and that he'd been suspended for two years for one such call (possibly the one in favor of Ohno?)... but I, with my extensive research skills (googling "Jim Hewish Suspended") haven't been able to find any confirmation of this from news sites. And yeah, the 3000 meter thing sucked. Sure.

But one commenter I read pointed out: Korea's own bad sportsmanship may well have caused Jim Hewish to make more calls against Korea. You see, Kushibo explains:

South Korea's hardcore netizenry may be entirely to blame for this one. The call was one that, according to the link The Marmot provided, could have gone either way, but the orgy of hate unleashed by the hardcore super comment tribe and their hacker buddies in 2002 forced his hand in Vancouver: Were Mr Hewish to have sided with the ROK team this time, he would have left himself open to accusations of caving in against his judgement.

The Joongang Daily has an editorial (HT Brian's twitter) about how bad calls are poor sportsmanship... which conveniently fails to mention that planting flags on pitching mounds and death threats are poor sportsmanship, too...

I don't really care to get into a back and forth about who's right and who's wrong, so all I want to say to Korean sports fans is this:

Folks, here's the thing. Sports Karma exists. The sporting gods, who determine who gets good luck and who gets bad luck, watch the behavior of athletes and fans, to decide who gets the lucky bounces, and who gets the bad calls.

Here's how sports Karma works - and I've seen this best by following Canadian hockey for quite a long time:

Basically: what goes around comes around. Send out bad sports Karma and it'll haunt you later. Send out good sports karma, and you'll benefit. Seriously.

Being a sore loser = bad sports karma - if you bitch and moan when bad things happen, more bad things will happen. Seriously. Russia's sore losership in the past is, in the Sports karma way of things, the direct cause of their poor showing in these Olympics.

Being an ungracious winner = bad sports karma - if players gloat when good things happen, bad things happen in the future. (cf: Flag planting, Korean audiences getting up and leaving after Kim Yuna skates instead of watching the whole show, gold medalists talking shit about runners-up)

And here's the big thing about sports Karma: if you remain competitive, keep trying, and respect the game and the other players, what goes around comes around. Seriously. In Canadian Hockey, a few bad referee calls have robbed Canada when they should have done better... but for every disallowed goal or bogus call that went against Canada, there's one that went our way, that benefited us, at some other time. If Canada lost this gold medal game because of a bad bounce, or an unlucky play, or a bit of bad refereeing at the wrong time, or if they just ran into a hot goalie, like they did in 2006, I'd be a bit upset, sure, but I'd also know that buddy, that doesn't change too much: Canada played hard, and next Olympics, they'd be in the mix again. Dear South Korean sports fans: it's the same for you! If you try your best, and lose with grace, that's good sports Karma, which improves your chances next time around. Losing a heartbreaker? That's good sports Karma, too, and it just makes it more satisfying when things finally DO go right (cf: 2004 Red Sox World Series). Getting the women's 3000 relay gold next Olympics will be way more satisfying if you win it back after being robbed this year, than it would have been if you'd just kept winning.

Korea's last two Olympics were, as far as I can tell, its best showings ever... so enjoy that, and be happy about it, support your athletes, learn to enjoy the awesomeness that is sporting excellence, no matter who's playing and winning, and seriously, back off with the victim thing - two Korea stories were in the nominations for the most controversial moments of the Olympics, and that's bad Karma - and go enjoy another Kim Yuna replay. The bad sports fan thing is tired, and it's building up bad sports karma which will hurt your teams and players in the future.

Thank you for listen my essay.


Alex said...

Mr Roboseyo, in general I enjoy your posts. I stop in every now and then. You seem like a nice guy. But every now and then your pedagogic, sometimes paternalistic, and finger wagging tone is a bit much. You don't want to get into an argument about right and wrong except you clearly give yourself the privilege to do exactly that. This is your blog after all, so you can do whatever you want. I have no complaints other than with your meme - "karma"/ what goes around comes around. I know that a cliche is a cliche for a reason but I don't know how effective it is to tell an adult "stop acting badly or else you will get whats coming to you". Especially when you try to shame a country into behaving nicely by citing an NBC poll with 2 choices involving Koreans, 2 choices involving Russians, 3 choices involving Americans, and 2 choices involving Canadians. A sensible Korean response to this, when in Rome...

Not defending the Korean fan who sent the hoax to the Aussie embassy-that dude is a bonehead. But examples of bad behavior when it involves sports are plentiful no matter what country you are talking about. And so if you will allow me to be prescriptive, be careful when you wag your finger at a country about their sportsmanship, you may come off a bit offensive.

Roboseyo said...

I know I come across that way sometimes, Alex. I don't get this way very often... that's one of the reasons I added the tag "Roboseyo's pompous wind-baggery" to this post. I know I'm a windbag sometimes. At least you don't have to deal with it as often as girlfriendoseyo. For the record, I use that same tag when I wag my finger at English teachers:




Seoul City


Lee Myung-bak

and even China


The NBC survey is mostly beside the point, anyway; Marmot's Hole comment boards are much nastier, and much more thorough in listing incidents of Korea's poor sportsmanship http://www.rjkoehler.com/2010/02/27/i-really-hope-criminal-investigations-are-happening/#comment-363913

Robert Koehler said...

If Canada lost this gold medal game because of a bad bounce, or an unlucky play, or a bit of bad refereeing at the wrong time, or if they just ran into a hot goalie, like they did in 2006, I'd be a bit upset, sure, but I'd also know that buddy, that doesn't change too much

Tell that to Ranger fans. I've heard Madison Square Garden fans chant "Potvin Sucks" at dog shows, for Christ's sake.

Robert Koehler said...

Oh, as for the "two year suspension" thing, I believe it was a Korean color commentator who said it, or so I recall reading in a news story. I searched around for confirmation after I read it, but couldn't find anything. Which is not to say it's untrue.

T.K. (Ask a Korean!) said...

As usual, I agree with your general points, but disagree with a small detail.

I don't think planting Korean flag on the mound was a bad sportsmanship at all. It's an acceptable form of trash-talking. What's the point of winning if you can't gloat?

This Is Me Posting said...

@The Korean

No fucking way.

Carrying/displaying your flag post-victory is one thing. PLANTING your flag is another. I don't care how much "trash-talking" you think is acceptable, it's not right to plant your flag on foreign soil.

When I play poker at my buddy's house, I don't piss on his table to mark my territory after winning.

Had Japan planted a flag on Korean soil if Korea hosted a similar event, there'd be instant WW3.

It was low class, disrespectful and thoughtless.



RE: Audience leaving after Kim Yu-Na's skate

This is the first I hear of this incident. Where did you hear this? Is there a link to a story? I'd love to read it.

Also, thanks for pointing out that the Jim Hewish suspension might be a bullshit story. I, as well, have tried to find any mention of it in a credible news source. So far, the only people saying he was suspended are the netizens.

John from Daejeon said...

The Korean,

Do you really think a South Korean flag would ever, ever be planted on Chinese soil as a form of gloating?

Luckliy, most Americans could care less about "international" games. Hell, that game involving the flag planting was nowhere near a sellout for such an "important" game while a preseason Cowboy game drew well over a 100,000. We're too busy watching the NFL, then college football, then MLB, then the NBA, then NASCAR, then golf, then hockey, tennis, fishing (Bassmaster's), etc.

T.K. (Ask a Korean!) said...


When I play poker at my buddy's house, I don't piss on his table to mark my territory after winning.

How is this in any way the same?

Had Japan planted a flag on Korean soil if Korea hosted a similar event, there'd be instant WW3.

Sure. And you can talk all you want about Koreans being sports hypocrites. But it is still acceptable.

Also, for the record, there was a significant number of Koreans who agreed with you. Just do a quick Naver search.

It was low class, disrespectful and thoughtless.

That's the whole point of gloating.


Yes. The Korean baseball team did the same flag-planting when they won gold in Beijing Olympics.

This Is Me Posting said...

@The Korean

When I play poker at my buddy's house, I don't piss on his table to mark my territory after winning.
How is this in any way the same?

Re... really? You... need me to explain this to you?

Wow. Okay. Um, well, historically speaking, flag planting has been a symbol for marking ownership of territory; land claimed through... I mean, really? You've never done a history class before? I always assumed you were older, but this is basic high school stuff. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that placing a flag in the ground is a symbol of marking one's territory.

Also, in the animal kingdom, animals piss around areas to mark territory. Other animals will smell the urine and know that the territory is "owned" by another animal based on the scent of the urine.

The joke was the idea that I'm marking my territory on my friend's table after winning the poker game (meaning I'm "Top Dog"). I guess I could have used "planted my flag" but I don't exactly have a flag that represents me - although, I guess I should get one - and the image of pissing on someone's table after a poker game is far more humorous.


Koreans flag planting :: Marking territory post victory

Me pissing on table :: Marking territory post victory

See, now I understand why you don't see this as a big deal. I hope I've cleared things up for you. There's a reason people DON'T plant flags on foreign soil during sporting events. In no way shape or form do you "own" the soil, despite the modern colloquial between kids these days of "owning/pwning" each other. In an international tournament, there has to be respect for the home country. There's absolutely no problem CARRYING your flag and displaying it, but you DO NOT plant a flag and claim that ground as your own, especially on an international stage. It should not be done. It is NOT acceptable.

Also, for the record, there was a significant number of Koreans who agreed with you. Just do a quick Naver search.

Good, I'm glad.

It was low class, disrespectful and thoughtless.
That's the whole point of gloating.

And what did your mother say about gloating?

T.K. (Ask a Korean!) said...


Make up your mind -- Do you want to make a joke or do you want to talk seriously about whether or not flag-planting is an acceptable form of trash talking?

Pissing on your friend's table crosses the line in ways that flag-planting does not. It involves nudity and a threat to hygiene. If the Korean national team indeed dropped trou and pissed on the mound en masse, then I would say that crosses the line.

But at a poker table, the equivalent example like this: saying, "I just made you my bitch! I hope your ass is lubed" after a big victory. Is it obnoxious? Sure. But it is still acceptable, and the fact that no real anal sex happens does not change the fact that such trash talking is acceptable. Complete humiliation of the loser is part of the game. Haven't you heard of logo-stomping in college football, or the taco chant by the Lakers fans?

Your objection is even more puzzling because it is not as if Team Korea planted the flag after Korea-U.S. game. It did so after Korea-Japan game. Japan was not the home country in any sense.

Alex said...

John from Daejeon,

Lucky? What is there to be lucky about. Americans are missing out on all this great stuff. And besides, who was talking about what American's watch.

This Is Me Posting said...

@The Korean

I'm going to disregard the first part of your argument. Yes, I was serious about the point, but I try to make my points by interjecting factious cynicism. I'm chalking this on up to either my being bad at telling jokes, or you're lacking in a sense of humour. Either or, I don't care.

The analogy, however, works. My point is, you do not "mark your territory" in someone else's house, regardless of method. Yes, it IS different then trash-talking. Trash-talking can go two ways. You can both boast, be obnoxious, scream and chant, but you DO NOT use a method of establishing land ownership that goes back hundreds of centuries and the still causes international disputes to this day (Example: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2007-08-08-russia-arctic-flag_N.htm). Flag planting is an act that transcends shit talking and has far more socio-political and nationalistic meanings (Iwo Jima, anyone?)

Regarding your last point, you seem to be missing mine: Was the game held in Korea? If your answer is "no", then there's a problem. I don't freakin' care who's playing who where. If you're NOT in your home country, DO NOT plant a bloody flag. The land that you are playing in is NOT your land. DON'T claim it. It isn't yours.

T.K. (Ask a Korean!) said...


Nearly every form of trash-talking involves some type of long-historied stigma. For example, take my example of trash-talking about anal rape, which has a far longer history than any flag. Without such underlying meaning, the trash-talk wouldn't sting. Also, at least some people know the ludicrity of the idea of planting a flag for claiming land.

(Try the link, I promise you won't regret it. Still think I lack a sense of humor? :))

In sports trash-talking, everything should be fair game -- your mother, your school, your town, and yes your country too. If you don't want to hear it, just don't lose. Because the most powerful form of trash-talking is always: "Scoreboard."

Alex said...

eddie izzard flag thing is hilarious!

Roboseyo said...

Eddie Izzard can get the last word any time he wants.

John from Daejeon said...


Actually, they aren't missing out on this nonsense. There's more to life than sports (and at least in the U.S., there are tons of them for those who do enjoy them). Personally, I enjoy hunting and fishing which isn't something that most South Koreans get to do on a daily basis like I can, and do, back home.

I brought up what Americans watch (and mostly aren't watching) to show the relevance of what most people there think about when some nation wins the odd medal or sports championship. Absolutely nothing. There are so many more important things in life than wasting it watching really meaningless activities when one thinks about life's big picture and the grand scheme of things.

I sure am glad that some people actually care about eradicating diseases, feeding the world, and trying to improve the lives of everyone on the planet, and that not everyone is totally gaga over tiddlywinks, shuffleboard (also known as curling), or soccer.

Pink Rabbit said...

Hi, I've looked around a few sites mentioning the short skating controversy at Vancouver 2010 but it seems that your post is the newest one I can find (discussions on the other sites I found seemed to have been finished a few days ago and I don't want to be rehashing them again and I'm sorry if I'm kind of doing that on here) so I thought I might mention a few things here. Being a Korean living in Australia, I'll be try to be as objective as I can. Also I'm not really interested in politics or sports generally so I'll just focus more on the facts of the case at hand (which is what we all should be doing).

I don't know anything about Korea not wanting to mess with China in other situations, but in the case of the women's relay I think the reason why the blame is put on Hewish this time is because of two factors - Ohno's behaviour in 2002 and other disqualification decisions made by Hewish.

In Salt Lake City, notwithstanding whether Kim Dong Sung was legitimately disqualified or not, Ohno overreacted a bit by holding both arms up and putting on a weird expression. You don't see that a lot with other skatere even when there are completely non-controversial disqualificatoins. It was thought to be an ambiguous situation able to go either way, with arguments for both sides (and not all the arguments against Ohno were necessarily from Korea). At the time referees could not look at replays so it was thought that it was Ohno's reaction that clinched the issue for the referees (why they decided to go against Kim in an ambiguous situation).

At Vancouver the Chinese team were very political (although there are those who still didn't like this response) by saying that they didn't really know how the bump(?) happened but that they accept the referee's judgment (this was mentioned in several english-language articles). Of course on the Korean side they said there was clipping of the blades but that's not usually enough to warrant a disqualification and there was no other physical contact. Various commentators and specialists (both in and outside Korea) have mentioned that the situation is kind of ambiguous and the referee may call either way. So basically the Chinese acted appropriately (during the race they focused on the race and didn't put on what Koreans call "hollywood actions" like Ohno and protested to the referees a bit after the race but that's what's done, everyone does that so although Koreans might not like it it's not too much in issue) so if there was to be any fault directed at someone then it could only be Hewish because this time the referees could watch replays (so actions of Chinese become even less important) and during deliberation (which took a long time which people interpret as indicating that the decision really was a difficult one and could have gone either way) it looked as if Hewish (as the head referee) was convincing the other assistant referees to disqualify Korea (I'm not saying that's how things were, I'm just saying that's how things appeared).

Pink Rabbit said...

Regarding other disqualification decisions made by Hewish, there is a list floating around Korean sites of other situations where Hewish disqualified Koreans to make the medals go to the Americans and the Chinese. I'm not necessarily arguing that this is a race issue as I don't know myself about in what situations these disqualifications occurred, but looking at this list and Hewish's decisions made during Vancouver 2010, it seems as if Hewish is overly harsh during the finals. Where there are similar pushing and shoving going on at heats (etc) and finals, its instigators (or according to some, its victims) are more likely to be disqualified during the finals (although there were some questionable disqualifications in other situations as well, not all against Koreans - but I didn't get to watch most of them myself so I guess it's hearsay). I don't know if Hewish is doing this because it's a "medal event" and decisions should thus be made more carefully, or if it just happened that way... But shouldn't referees be as fair as possible in all situations? Be as consistent as possible? Regardless of whether the skaters are Korean/Chinese/American or the match is a final medal event or the Koreans have bad sportmanship (your quote of Kushibo's argument) etc. shouldn't he make the same judgment in similar situations?

I think the points I mentioned are really why the Koreans are against Hewish this time around rather than the Chinese (regarding the race issue, the Koreans think that it is Hewish who doesn't want to touch the Chinese, that he made them win because they are a rising power etc.).

... Girlfriendoseyo said that ... Jim Hewish had ... been suspended for two years for one such call ... but I ...haven't been able to find any confirmation of this from news sites.

Yes the "one such call" was regarding Ohno is 2002 but I don't no whether Hewish was suspended and I haven't read anywhere that he had been either. I think this may have been the public's misinterpretation of something a Korean commentator (also a past short track champion) said, that she didn't see Hewish at the short track events she went to after 2002 but start popping up aroung two years later (she isn't necessarily saying that he was suspended, just that he dropped out of view for awhile).

Pink Rabbit said...

Folks, here's the thing. Sports Karma exists. Being a sore loser = bad sports karma - if you bitch and moan when bad things happen, more bad things will happen.

Hey I agree that being a sore loser isn't good, but sometimes that's all you can do. If you believe your loss/disqualification wasn't legitimate and that you lost out on being the winner, wouldn't you want to dispute that? And sometimes legitimate methods for doing so may not exist, so then wouldn't you end up "bitching and moaning"? And so what if like you said, sports karma exists? It wouldn't likely affect the actual individuals who believe they've been cheated, so should the hard work and training of those individuals be completely ignored in fear of "sports karma"? And sometimes the moaning ends up actually accomplishing something even if it doesn't actually change the outcome of the past decisions (like the short track referees now using video replays to determine disqualifications). Of course I'm not saying that the moaning is actually a good thing, and of course there should be a limit to that as well (like the Japanese showing on national tv, videos of the judging process of Asada Mao and Kim Yuna's performances in an effort to claim that the judging process was rigged).

Being an ungracious winner = bad sports karma - if players gloat when good things happen, bad things happen in the future.

Regarding Lee Jung-Su's comment, I'm not necessarily saying that his comment was a good one or a bad one, but it seems that his comment has been taken out of context by many. Even the article you linked to makes it sound like the past "feud" with Ohno is why Lee said this (which may be one factor but not the deciding one) and people seem to be angry because they take it as Lee putting the blame of his teammates' fall on Ohno, or that Ohno doesn't deserve the medal because he wouldn't have won it if the Koreans hadn't fallen. From what I've seen on the Korean sites, it seems like the reason for Lee's comment is because during the semifinals(I'm not sure if it was actually the semifinals but it's not the finals which is what other people seem to think) there was some physical contact between Ohno and Lee (and if Ohno had been disqualified then he wouldn't even have been in the finals anyway, and therefore not able to win a medal).

Now a sidepoint. The "Plushenko rips Lysacek " issue on the article you linked seems very similar to the situation between Asada Mao and Kim Yuna (although they themselves aren't doing anything controversial some people from both countries are - more on the Japanese side). How do you think this will affect the next Winter Olympics? Will Japan perform even worse than they did this time (no gold)? Will Korea perform better? Or will the controversy with short track kind of cancel things out?

Anonymous said...

That flag planting at the baseball was hilarious. I was at a pension with Korean friends and they went ballistic when Korea won, to the point of burning the samgyeopsal. Usually these people don't care much for baseball. Totally made my day when Japan beat Korea in the final.

Funny how we don't see Japan carrying on like the Korean team

John from Daejeon said...

For those interested in fishing in South Korea, you might want to check out next week's KOFISH 2010 at Seoul Trade Exhibition Center (Setec).

Known as the Korea International Fishing Show. It runs from March 12th-14th.


This Is Me Posting said...

@The Korean

I knew you were going to link Izzard because I was thinking about linking him myself in my arguments.

And yes, I honestly thought to myself: "No way. If he didn't get my joke, there's no way he'll understand Izzard's humour."

Glad to see you at least have good taste in comedy. Got the chance to hang out with Izzard once with a buddy of mine (who's hung out with him a few times more after that). Best fun fact we learned that first night: He doesn't really like jam.



Most of your extremely long replies with no sources are Korean talking points with no backup and lots of hearsay.

And I hate the term "Hollywood action". Its a stupid bloody term.

T.K. (Ask a Korean!) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T.K. (Ask a Korean!) said...

Funny how we don't see Japan carrying on like the Korean team.

Think again.

(Scroll to the middle.)

Anonymous said...

Just read the post and there seems to be a lot of interesting thoughts there to be going with. Also, kudos with the site, as I think it's really good.

Was wondering what your opinion was regarding 2018 Olympic Games and whether or not they should be held in Pyeongchang? What do you think the advantages/disadvantages of this would be?

Alex said...

John from Daejeon, I admire your ability to be an ambassador for hunting and fishing. Please continue,

"to actually care about eradicating diseases, feeding the world, and trying to improve the lives of everyone on the planet"

while attending,

"the Korea International Fishing Show"


After seeing the Koreans link, you should not think of the link as an outlier. As Eddie Izzard points out, the act of planting a flag is a long tradition. For the Japanese, it is not relegated to the pitching mound only. Apparently they also claim 3rd base.

A gigantic Japanese flag was laid behind third base as a tribute to the champions

MyTwoCents said...

Good words, completely agree with everything said. But I get the feeling you're wasting your breath. Koreans do not want to hear about this, they are so blinded by nationalism. This is also true of the Koreans living overseas.

For instance, look at the comments at this site full of Gyopos. They remind me of the Nazis, right down to the mod who is running the site over there. I was warned 3 times for being too "negative" on Korea and finally outright banned - not for bad language, race bait - but for being too negative on Korea and for being too "sarcastic".


Roboseyo said...


Comparing groups of people to nazis tends to lead to that effect. You're free to disagree with people at Roboseyo, but please keep the nazis out of it, unless we're discussing World War II, thanks.